Photo caption: Dr. Gresham Collom, a first-generation college graduate and a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican tribe, is an educational policy researcher and educator in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Dr. Gresham Collom admittedly wasn’t the best student when he attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, but his own experiences help him better understand the students he instructs today.
“I changed my major (and preferred career) multiple times, frustrated many professors and took two extra years to earn my bachelor’s degree,” Collom says. “But the lessons I learned as a college student at UWEC, both academically and personally, shaped who I am today.”
Collom was a recipient of the UW-Eau Claire Alumni Association’s Outstanding Recent Alumnus Award in May 2023 that acknowledges the special achievements and great promise of alumni who are within 15 years of their graduation from the university.
Collom is an educational policy researcher and educator in St. Paul, Minnesota, and in fall 2023 will be an assistant professor at St. Cloud State University in the higher education administration program. He also is a researcher in UW-Madison’s Student Success Through Applied Research Lab, where he was awarded a $500,000 research grant to lead a project to increase access to scholarships and grants for Indigenous American college students.
As a doctoral student and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tennessee, Collom partnered with state agencies and national foundations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to conduct research on the state’s free-college programs (Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect). He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Tennessee and UW-Whitewater, and spent several months working for a nonprofit organization and research center, Research for Action.
Collom, a first-generation college graduate and a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican tribe, says he is the beneficiary of policies and programs established to support marginalized populations as they pursue postsecondary education. Through his research, Collom has been committed to improving educational systems for low-income and minority populations, as he believes education can be a driving force to improve equity and educational opportunities.
Collom, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science, credits criminal justice professors Dr. Randall Beger and Dr. Justin Patchin for making him feel like he belonged on campus and in the academic program.
“I try to emulate their behaviors when I teach as an adjunct instructor now, and always try to find the positives in my students’ work,” Collom says.
Collom reminds UW-Eau Claire’s spring graduates that they shouldn’t be afraid to fail. He recalls being scared to tackle tasks he wasn’t good at during his college years.
“I struggled and failed while at UWEC,” Collom says. “I’ll assuredly fail again, and that’s OK. It just means I’m still trying.”